Students explore futures at job fair

Scott Swanson

High school students clustered around tables at the Sweet Home Boys and Girls Club Thursday morning, March 23, looking for jobs.

Well, checking out the landscape, at least.

Approximately 80 Sweet Home High School juniors and seniors from the school’s career and technical education programs walked from campus to the Boys and Girls Club gym, next door, to hand out resumes, converse with employers and get a general feel for any awaiting opportunities at the High School Career Fair.

The event was organized by Blake Manley, the school’s natural resources teacher, who assembled the inaugural fair last year at the former Wells Fargo building.

It increased in size from nine businesses last year to 15, expanding “outside the tech field” with the City of Sweet Home and Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District, Manley said.

Senior Casey Valloni, who expressed interest in becoming an electrician, said the fair still presented a good opportunity to explore his options.

“It’s good to see what’s out here,” he said.

Alissa Curry, store manager for the Lebanon Wilco, described the event as “a good opportunity for us and for kids who might not feel comfortable with going into the store. It kind of opens the door for them, which is nice.”

Multiple employers echoed that thought, saying they’ve noticed that today’s youth sometimes needed a little help breaking the ice.

Sweet Home Police Capt. Ryan Cummings manned a table with Communications Manager Adam Leisinger and Operations Manager Dominic Valloni of the Public Works Department.

“They’re bringing in resumes, and they’re all looking really professionally done and nice,” Cummings said.

“Obviously, they’ve been receiving some good training at school; how to take care of this stuff and life skills are super important. I think at this age, they’re kind of keeping an open mind and that’s to be expected, but hopefully we can kind of provide some opportunities for them as they explore the next chapters.”

George Virtue, manager of the Santiam Lumber Mill in Lebanon, sat with three others at the Weyerhaeuser table.

“We’re just here to talk about options,” he said, noting that the company was interested in hiring summer help, which included high school students. Weyerhaeuser also has local tree farms, so it sought young people interested in forestry as well.

“If they were to go that way with a career, we have quite a few leaders here that can talk about their career path and the options that they’ve got,” he said, gesturing at his nearby colleagues.

Virtue was “pretty excited” about the career and technical education offerings developed at Sweet Home, including natural resources and agriculture in recent years, as well as the school district’s “long-term vision.”

“I like the CTE programs, that we’re getting the kids out learning some trade, some jobs skills,” he said,

“All of the instructors are doing a good job working with industry professionals so we can start talking to them, let them know what we’re looking for. I think kids are understanding that, ‘Hey, as I get done with high school, I don’t just have to go the college route; I can go out and get a good family-wage-paying job as soon as I graduate and start making money. I think that’s a good avenue that we need to continue.”

Senior Sky Chappelle appreciated the fair’s “fantastic” opportunity. He wasn’t sure where he was headed after graduation, but said, “The big thing is being able to just ask questions about all these jobs without having to actually go in (to companies).

“It’s been very beneficial,” he added. “The thing is that they’re here. They want to talk to you. It’s like you’d be kind of dumb not to take advantage of something like this because of the opportunities presented here. You can’t really find this anywhere else.”

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